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Vodafone and Yahoo! join up for mobile ads venture

LONDON - Vodafone's European operations is in discussions with Yahoo! about hosting mobile ads and developing voice activated search technology, with a view to introducing the mobile ad format by the end of the year.

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The phone giant has described mobile ads as a "sizeable opportunity" to run highly targeted pan-European campaigns directed at teenagers and young adults for youth-oriented products.

Vodafone confirmed it is in discussions with an unnamed soft drinks company and car manufacturer about introducing mobile ads towards the end of 2007 or by early 2008.

The company is also in the early stages of developing voice activated search technology for mobiles with Yahoo! Microsoft has already stolen a march on its rivals by acquiring voice recognition company Tellme for an estimated $800m (£403m).

It is understood Vodafone plan to roll out mobile ads by the end of the year or by early 2008, concentrating on its four largest European markets, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK. Vodafone has around 96m customers across Europe.

Vodafone UK is already working with Yahoo! about developing technology to sell ad space on mobile phones, which would be hosted on the search giant's web portal. Similarly, Vodafone Germany is working with publishing firm Gruner + Jahr about developing ad formats which customers can choose to accept or reject.

Frank Boulben, director of new business development at Vodafone, said: "We can already see the appetite of major brands to run international campaigns in Europe."

However, some industry reports have questioned the importance of mobile ads as a revenue generator, with a GroupM study recently predicting mobile ads would account for just 5% of the sector by 2015.

Yahoo! has since countered the claim, stating more people will be accessing the internet via their mobile phones than their PCs in 10 years time.

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